The Private Secretary's Cottage is the second-oldest building in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery precinct, after the Commissariat Store. It is situated on a bank above a remnant of the original foreshore - the very site where the European settlement of Hobart began. The cottage of the governor’s private secretary, built c1813–14 and is almost the only survivor of the old government complex, including Government House, in the area now covered by Franklin Square and the Town Hall. It can also be seen less well from Davey Street to the south, between the old Customs House and the museum. Where the museum is situated now was originally a low rise covered by tall gums, with a low bluff towards the water’s edge. The only remains of that rise is the bank on which the cottage stands. The beach curved round to what is now Salamanca Place.
The cottage was originally constructed as an outbuilding for the Commissariat and by the late 1820s was being used as a lumber store. Between 1828 and 1829 the colonial architect, John Lee Archer (1791-1852), converted the building into a residence for Lieutenant Governor Arthur's private secretary, William Parramore, due to its proximity to Old Government House. The cottage was regarded by its mid -nineteenth century occupants as an attractive place to live, with its generous garden and position overlooking the harbor and towards Government House. The cottage was not always a happy place, however. In February 1847 The Courier reported that Sir John Eardley Eardley-Wilmot had died there, some months after his controversial demise as Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land.
Governors’ private secretaries lived in the cottage until the new Government House, in its current position, was occupied in 1858. After the present Government House was completed on the Domain, the cottage was occupied by the Director of Public Works. In 1871 it was incorporated into the museum precinct, as a residence for the curator and, later, for the museum caretaker and other staff. From the 1950s onwards, the cottage was used for museum offices and storage.
Over time, several unsympathetic alterations have changed the fabric of the cottage. At one stage it was threatened with demolition and, in 1901, the northern wall was torn down and realigned to make way for the third stage of the museum. However, despite these alterations and the fact that the cottage has been hemmed in by successive additions to the museum, a combination of chance and economic necessity has ensured the building's survival.
In the late 1970s, a conservation study highlighted its significance and subsequent restoration works have partly reinstated the building's original form and materials. The cottage continues to stand majestically on its rise, a tribute to the original European settlement of Hobart. It can be seen via the TMAG museum.